Saturday, September 10, 2016


This extraordinary drawing by John Cuneo has already been selected for inclusion in both of the upcoming annual collections of illustration art: The Society of Illustrators' Annual of American Illustration and the American Illustration Annual.  So why bother reproducing it here?

Because the drawing is immense but the annuals will reproduce it at a size that makes the figures look like an ant colony and you'll miss the entire point.   Here are some details worthy of your attention that you won't see any other way:

Cuneo is the only contemporary illustrator I can think of who draws animals on a par with the great A.B. Frost or Heinrich Kley.

This dog hanging from the ceiling shows Cuneo's strong sense of design:

I've been critical on this blog of the type of loose drawing that results from shortcuts or a careless attitude.  On the other hand, I think Cuneo is an excellent example of loose drawing with genuine strength and substance behind it.  You can really tell when an artist has paid his or her dues.

There are dozens of faces on this drawing, and some of them are freaky scary:



As with many of Cuneo's drawings, this one is rich with oblique references and dark symbolism.

I think this is a major work, but you'd never guess it from the tiny reproduction in the Annuals.  That's why I'm performing a public service by sharing some details here. 


Anonymous said...

Hi, I have been following your blog for many years and i loved.

This is just another great drawing that you have post, but i was wondering why you haven't post anything from Ralph Steadman or Max Beerbohm two great illustrators.

MORAN said...

Awesome drawing. Does he have a book you recommend?

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Art like this deserves to be seen.

bill said...


David Apatoff said...

Anonymous no. 1-- Thanks, I like both Steadman and Beerbohm. They have been covered a lot (I assume you're following the current Steadman show at the Society of Illustrators). I try to give priority to artists where I can contribute something, such as details from original art, unpublished sketches, personal materials or unpopular opinions. But both are certainly on the list of worthy topics.

MORAN-- there are currently two books of Cuneo's work, nEuROTIC and a larger book published by Ashley Wood as part of his GOYA series. But I understand there is a third book in the works, by Fantagraphics. I'd like to see a big, coffee table book to do his work justice.

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous and bill-- Thanks for writing. Yes, Cuneo is something special and his work deserves a wide audience. His work is so small and delicate, while at the same time so psychologically dense and trenchant, that the only way to appreciate it is to see it up close. If yo ever get a chance to see his originals you should not let the opportunity go by.

MORAN-- It occurs to me that there is a third book of Cuneo's work, an excellent collection of his drawings on the backs of bar menus. It's called "Happy Hour (and other myths). It's hard to find, although I would imagine Cuneo can tell you how to track down copies if you contact him through his web site.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. Cuneo is da bomb.


Laurence John said...

John (if you're reading) was this for a specific brief, and if so, what was the theme ?

Tom said...

I am curious as too what the subject or theme is also. It remains me of John Steuart Curry's "Hogs killing a Snake."

Just catching up with your posts, when you interviewed Mort Drucker, did you tape and or record it?

David Apatoff said...

Laurence John and Tom-- Cuneo is not a regular internet user the way most people are, and one never knows when he will drift back this way, so I'll tell you what I know.

This drawing was not an assignment, Cuneo did it for his own personal benefit. While most of his drawings are very compact, this one is about 20" x 30", which is new for him. I hope he does more. Cuneo does a lot of commissions for magazines such as The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and the Atlantic but in my view his private drawings, where he has unlimited range to go as deep and as far as he wants are his best work. I think they are absolutely brilliant but don't ask him to explain them. They are mostly unpublished so you don't get a chance to see them often; that's one reason I reproduce them here. There are other illustrators who draw in a similar loose style (such as Barry Blitt, a favorite at the NYer) but for me Cuneo is clearly the best of the bunch.

Tom-- my talk with Mort Drucker was the kind of sweet and personal exchange where it would have been inappropriate to stick a microphone in front of him, but you can bet I wrote down as much as I could remember after I left. There are elements I'll write about in the future.

JSL-- Agreed!

conwayde said...

I like Cuneo and see a lot of M.K Brown's work in his, and many often mistake her work for his. I wonder if she was an inspiration for him? For those unfamiliar with Brown's work, Google her and you'll see the similarities. For those of us old enough, you'll remember Brown's work regularly appeared in National Lampoon magazine back in the 70s.

David Apatoff said...

David C.-- Now, there's a name from the past. I have no idea whether Cuneo saw or was influenced by M.K. Brown's work, but I used this opportunity to go back and investigate her very nice work. Thanks for the reminder.